There isn't much to say...Carolina was beaten by Atlanta on Sunday. They will not follow as the third team to go undefeated in regular season history of the NFL. This brings up a very important Sunday upcoming for the Panthers. Let's look at the playoff race as the final week of the season is here.
Let's go the NFC and the Panthers among playoff contenders. The Panthers were primed to go undefeated in the regular season, but it won't happen this year. Still, the Panthers have plenty to play for this coming Sunday.
Carolina will own the #1 seed and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win next week or an Arizona loss. The good news is that Arizona plays a tough Seattle and barely snuck by them last time. The Panthers host Tampa Bay, which Carolina defeated in Week 4 and the Buccaneers have lost three games in a row. The Panthers have also beaten Tampa in the last five meetings.
Green Bay and Minnesota are both in, but they play each other this weekend to determine the division winner and third overall seed. If Adrian Peterson is healthy, then I will take Minnesota to get the third seed. If not, give me Green Bay.
Washington is now the four seed as they have won the NFC East since nobody else wanted to win it. To start the season, nobody even thought the Redskins would make the playoffs, much less win the division. With the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants all in the same division, it boggles my mind as to how Washington ended up winning more than the other three did.
Seattle has clinched a spot, but as to who they play is still a question. Besides Carolina and Arizona, Seattle is the only other team I see as legitimate threats to win the NFC.
New England still holds the #1 seed, but it's not locked yet. Only Cincy has a chance to get the #1 seed. I don't believe Cincy can do it with A.J. McCarron at quarterback and besides, the Patriots are going to beat Miami.
The three seed gets more intriguing with Denver and Kansas City fighting for that spot. The Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot and are the hottest team in the AFC, despite not having Jamaal Charles in the backfield. Denver had lost twice in a row. The only thing carrying the Broncos is their defense and they want to give Peyton Manning one last shot in the playoffs.
The only thing Denver has to do is win out and they own the three seed. Right now, I don't trust Denver, but they are at home and they face San Diego. If there is one thing I have learned this season...never trust San Diego no matter what.
Houston and Indy are fighting for the lonely fourth seed. I like Houston to get the spot, but winning a playoff game, I'm not sold on. Houston is playing better and are doing the best with what they have.
The Jets own the last playoff spot for now. The Steelers had control until they unexplainable lost to Baltimore this past Sunday. The Jets are good enough to beat the Bills next week, so I think they hold on to that spot. As of now, I see only Kansas City, the Jets or the Steelers (should they make the playoffs) as any threat to New England in the AFC.
I would say Denver as well, but I don't trust the Broncos run game or Brock Osweiler enough to make that kind of call. Cincy can't win a playoff game to save their lives, so I have them as no threat.
One final thought, Carolina approaches what is a huge moment for them. It reminds of the 1996 team, who needed to beat Pittsburgh to clinch a first round bye. They did it, but barely held on in the closing seconds to win 18-14 at home. They haven't beaten Pittsburgh since then. Hopefully the pressure is not there for Carolina and they can play the way they have all season long, minus the Atlanta loss last week.